A Blast from the Past
FBT tries to figure out what The Devil Inside is.
Yet another game long forgotten that I didn’t forget. The Devil Inside was a paranormal TV Show, hosted by Jerry Springer who would send an ex-cop into haunted houses to investigate for a live audience; why you’d send a cop with a shotgun to investigate creaking floorboards isn’t really explained, although neither was Dave’s devil inside, a slinky catsuit-wearing she-devil called Deva who Dave could muster when the demons got too much for him. Now I think about it I’m not sure I have any idea what was going on.
It had so many nice touches though. Deva for one, but the tone and setting were creepy and I don't recall it as a shooter, more an atmospheric Alone in the Dark meets Most Haunted, an adventure-shooter.
TDI was another one of those games that didn't survive the switch from WinXP to Vista and beyond, and so after a few attempts, I gave up on it. But I really want to play this again. Problem solved, thanks to ebay. Time to crank up the XP rig...
Still a Blast?
The opening is a really nice X-Factor style gaudy set, excitable crowd and beautiful assistants. Our host, Jack T. Ripper sends Dave into a mansion to find Grimes, a serial killer who was executed while vowing to return with Hell’s minions. I suspect he was successful.
Standing in the grounds of the mansion, I haven’t time to reminisce because an undead is approaching. I shoot its legs off, thanks to Dave's laser sight then retreat as it stands on its hands and comes after me. Whoa, that's actually really goddamn cool for the time. What quickly becomes uncool though is all the no ammo, or Dave’s habit of altering his aim based on where you move the camera around him. Much like early Resident Evil, Dave can only save at TV sets he finds, which you need to use sparingly; no easy task with all the undead, Dave’s wobbly aim and lack of ammo.
TDI has aged and not just in ease of play; it's blocky and basic but still looks great, a lot more horror-goth than I remember, like a Tim Burton fever dream and feels very creepy. I charge around the mansion grounds, getting caught in traps and shootouts while in the studio Ripper calls Dave out for his actions, makes bad jokes and gets the crowd whooping. He also serves as a bit of a mission giver/direction hinter which is helpful. Sometimes.
For some reason there's cops running around here too, like reported ghosts require the kind of police response that Arnie got when he raided Cyberdyne. Least they're dropping ammo. Eventually I see an outhouse and have a flashback to the game requiring a lot of looking for things to make things open so things can happen. Sure there’s something I need in here, which means … sure enough I head in and get set on while the cameraman passively films.
En-route, I encounter none other than a uzi-toting granny. What do the undead need with weaponry? Still, the way the gun got away from the old dear was nice and many of the creatures reflect their deaths, such as a guy with a noose or in electric chairs. Was the granny killed in a drive-by gang beef?
Once inside the mansion I see different classes of monsters that seem to dislike each other, and they’ll ignore me in favour of ambling around the house. If I shoot one it might attack or take off – only to return with mates several minutes later. It feels scripted but works really well and it's a change from everyone in the world pissed off at me like most shooters. They’re just living their lives in here, it’s like my uni houseshare; everyone stumbling about, ignoring the mess and regretting their actions.
TDI doesn't have the luxury of subtle lighting and detail, but there’s nice unsettling noises, idle creatures and a sense you’re being watched, or toyed with. I always feel uneasy rather than just threatened. If I’m not doing anything footage-worthy, the cameraman will wander off and there were more than a few times I glanced at his camera to see him nonchalantly filming an undead attacking him - with no idea where he's got to. You have a main screen with Dave in 3rd person and the Cameraman's POV as a smaller screen, plus Ripper and the Audience drop in from time to time. The extra screen is a nice way of getting a jump on what's coming or reveal areas, and things behind you.
Later levels are more linear catacombs but making your way through the house is fairly non-linear and nicely creepy. Something will block your way so off you go to search for what you need or solve basic puzzles, and uncover other goings on. Like an Agent Scully. Angelina hosts a rival show, intent on debunking supernatural claims; she enters the house and immediately discovers Grimes (how come we have to wade through all those undead and locked doors and she finds him straight off?).
Grimes has plans for her, as does Ripper and even Deva, and quickly you start to suspect Dave's not been told the truth about all those ghostly goings on. Once we rescue Angelina, she and Dave start to grow close. But it's already crowded in Dave.
Deva, his demonic alter ego is something else. Her PVC catsuit squeaks when she runs (and she complains when you make her run), she has a Russian accent straight out of James Bond and her own agenda. Fighting with her magic skills is more cumbersome but it is a different experience being a demonic Emma Peel.
The creatures seem to react more aggressively toward her than Dave, but beyond that there doesn't really seem to be much point to having Deva around other than she is often what you need to solve puzzles. Plot wise ... I have no idea what's going on, who Ripper is, what Deva wants, why Dave's totally cool with being possessed by a hot demoness - not that I'd be complaining - what Angelina's role in all this is, what Grimes is up to, what the show is; and then I realise TDI is French.
The deeper you get into TDI the more French it gets. This is an art piece, Avant Garde cinema-gaming; I'm in House of Usher directed by 80’s era Luc Besson and I'm Christopher Lambert and Isabelle Adjani. If it had been more successful, I think it would end up on a few of those ‘weirdest moments in gaming’ lists. This is like playing Lara Croft trapped in her mansion, in a catsuit, on acid. It’s the kind of game where checking out a walkthrough isn’t a cheat, it’s the only way to understand what's going on...
There's a ton of bugs that further hinder it though; often if you pick up an item, then find the object it's used for but Deva/Dave will just go *non* so you'll have to reload, find the problem, then go back and get the item. Then get killed. In fact, everything in this game is difficult - keeping the audience interest up requires you to keep doing things, but when you're just searching for a battery or key, or lost, you're just as bored as them; then there's the dodgy camera angles, lack of ammo, toughness of the creatures, confusing layout, the puzzles, and the increasingly bonkers plot-line. I get the feeling I didn’t forget this the first time around, I was just unable to process it all.
That is the point of Blast from the Past, to see how a game compares to its memory; it lives up to certain elements - the creature behaviours, the eeriness of the mansion, the reality show and Deva’s squeaky sexiness, and when it works, the shooter elements are great and the exploration fun; this came out in 2000, the height of the straight shooter era and it tried to do something different. Just a little too different …
TDI didn’t do very well on release and the developers folded so it’s likely lost in some copyright hell stopping it from having an after-life on GOG or a refresh by Nightdive. I’d hope someone adopts it, it’s still a well-loved title judging by the internet and available on some abandonware sites if you have the knowhow to get it running on W10. I didn’t, but I do have my XP rig and my original disc, and I’m glad I kept it. I just still don't know what the hell it is. It’s weird and different, which gaming is lacking those days. It’s worth a go, if nothing else just for this Ghost-inspired, WTF moment between Deva and Angelina;
2000 | Developer Gamesquad | Publisher(s) Cryo Interactive / Take-Two Interactive
platforms; Win XP/98